ISTANBUL, Turkey, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Turkey's Defense Procurement Agency has established a helicopter office to oversee the country's acquisition of military helicopters.
The agency has divided its aviation department into two divisions. This represents the first time the Turkey's Defense Procurement Agency has established a divisional unit to deal exclusively with helicopter projects, Hurriyet newspaper reported Friday.
Earlier this month it was announced that Turkey will spend nearly $4.5 billion on arms procurement this year, a 10 percent increase over 2010's arms expenditures. The budget includes funding for the Turkish air force to purchase utility and attack helicopters worth more $7 billion.
In a Jan. 3 memo Defense Industry Undersecretary Murad Bayar ordered the creation of separate aerial units within Turkey's Defense Procurement Agency and appointed Koksal Liman as head of the helicopter department while Savunma Sanayii Mustesarligi Ministry of Defense Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry official Yakup Tasdelen will head agency's aircraft unit.
Turkey has large-scale military helicopter programs for attack, heavy lift, utility and naval platforms. The Turkish air force has 100 helicopters, including 20 Eurocopter AS 532UL Cougar Mk1 and 80 Bell UH-1H Huey light utility helicopters.
Turkey's Tusas Havacilik ve Uzay Sanayi A.S., Turkey's leading company in design, development, modernization, manufacturing, integration of aerospace systems and fixed and rotary wing aircrafts, founded in 1984, manufactured the helicopters under license.
Under the military's acquisition program Turkey is also purchasing 17 S-70B Seahawk naval helicopters from the U.S. company Sikorsky Aircraft. Sikorsky Aircraft and Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland are also competing for a nearly $4 billion Turkish military contract to provide 109 utility helicopters. In 2008 Turkey's Defense Procurement Agency signed a multibillion-dollar contract with AgustaWestland to buy 60 T-129 helicopter gunships.
Helicopters have proved essential in the Turkish military's campaign against Kurdish PKK militants based in northern Iraq.
According to a January 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable revealed through WikiLeaks, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Gates told Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug that the United States was interested in providing Turkey with dual-engine, high-altitude Super Cobra AH-1W attack helicopters imported from Taiwan, saying, "Sikorsky was prepared to guarantee that for every helicopter produced in Turkey and bought by Turkey, Sikorsky would produce a second helicopter in Turkey for export," adding that "this offer would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in export revenue. Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul believes Sikorsky has a good chance to win."